Saturday, May 8, 2010

Ripple Writing

Do you realize what you write is like a pebble thrown in a pond? It causes ripples that continue ad infinitum. Somewhere those ripples touch someone, or many someones, if you are lucky.

As positive comments (or even negative ones) and reviews come in on things I have written or am writing it always stuns me that my work has impact, that it makes people react, or think, or laugh or groan or cry. I sit here after reading a reaction thinking, That person is reacting to my writing, mine, wow. It is both humbling and encouraging.

It as if I had stepped out of my body and had unknowingly happened upon someone talking about me, a spirit, a fly on the wall, shocked that what I said caused a reaction.

I don't think if I am ever blessed enough to reach the status of something as lofty as best seller, Pulitzer prize winner, poet laureate, Caldecott winner or any other literary award that feeling would ever change.

I am one regular human being like any other writer. Even the most well known writers, the most financially successful or well respected write the same way I do, one word at a time. Yet what comes from this pen, or this computer keyboard as the case may be, can actually- even if only momentarily- affect another human life, or many human lives. That's a powerful realization. It is a little intimidating too.

I stifled my writing, for the most part for years and didn't listen to myself. I listened to everyone else’s expectations, trying to fit a mold that was not of my own making. Today as I am finally free of those barriers and again writing, and amazingly enough, published. I am remembering one event that took place before I let the shackles fall in place. That event stunned me in the same way as reactions to my work do today.

When I was teenager a couple poems I wrote started a deep, heartfelt discussion. I wish I had listened to those words and kept them alive, what he said to me. I wonder where I would have been on this quest if I had, a great deal further I think. No, I know I would have been instead of starting at the bottom in the last few years.

I was in college in Beirut. Visiting performers, dignitaries, business people and friends would go there for various reasons. On occasion I met them. A singer came, either on a performing tour or just to see the Middle East. I don't remember why. I had heard his name before and curious I ended up at a small group gathering in the backroom or basement where he was meeting with people. It may have been through my college or church there, but however I ended up there, I was there.

After he spoke to the group he sat and talked with me. He asked to hear some of my work when we were talking about writing and found out I loved to write. I was shy about it but thrilled anyone had asked. I read him a couple poems. Something struck him. What had been merely polite conversation became a genuine talk about the poems and their meanings, what they evoked in him and the common thread of understanding from things that had happened in his earlier life that were similar to mine then. He opened up. I was basically just a kid. He was already established in life and in his chosen profession. He had in his heyday of popular music, sung a song that had great social impact all over the world. His newer music was having a different more spiritual kind of impact.

Yet here something I had written that had made him pause long enough to sit and talk to a girl, a stranger to him, about the power her words had. I left that evening feeling stunned and empowered at the same time. I knew I wanted to write and he had reinforced that, but somewhere I let other's expectations become mine.

His name was Barry McGuire. The song, among others he recorded and the one he is most well known for, was "Eve of Destruction". No matter what the feeling about the song was, good or bad, it had impact. It made people think. It still does.

The power of the written word is incredible, far reaching. It is the pebble thrown in the water. How you use it matters. What you do with it can make a difference, even if it is only to yourself. Do not ever stop writing.

1 comment:

  1. Your poems never fail to touch me- they are full of grace.

    Someday you will be the celebrated poet talking to the young kid starting out. I have no doubt about that.